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Saturday February 4th

Ackland hires curator to represent lauded Asian art


He's bringing a new set of eyes to the Asian art collection. 

The Ackland Art Museum has hired the first associate curator of its extensive Asian art collection, museum staff announced on Wednesday.

Bradley Bailey, who currently works at the Mead Art Museum at Amherst College, will join the Ackland’s staff in November as the museum’s third curator.

The Ackland’s Asian art collection is one of the largest in the Southeast and the only one in North Carolina. The collection has grown steadily since 1983, when renowned curator Sherman Lee began working at the Ackland and focused on its expansion. 

Carolyn Allmendinger, director of academic programs at the Ackland, said a full time Asian art curator was a necessity for the museum. 

“This part of the collection is a distinctive element of the Ackland’s holdings,” she said. “It warranted sustained attention from somebody with expertise who could help us figure out how to really activate it.” 

Morgan Pitelka, an Asian Studies professor and director of the Carolina Asia Center, said he is excited the University is putting more focus on its Asian art collection.

“It’s exciting as a faulty member who teaches Asian history and culture because the Ackland is a great resource for class,” Pitelka said. “Hiring a new curator showed the University is acknowledging our strengths in this area.” 

Bailey, who is expected to receive his Ph.D. from Yale University in December, said he is excited to work with the Ackland’s broad collection of Asian art. 

“It’s a much bigger University and a much larger museum,” Bailey said. “The collection is smaller than what I’m currently working with, but it’s so much more diverse.” 

Bailey is specifically an expert in military prints from the Japan's Meiji Period, which spanned from 1868 to 1912. He said this has been an historically neglected area of art. 

“These prints have been overlooked because they can be overly decadent and tacky,” Bailey said. “But I’m drawn to them because of the flashiness and glitz.”

Bailey also said he is also excited to delve into areas of Asian art outside of his expertise, such as the strong sculpture holdings the Ackland has.

“I really want to try and illustrate the changes and the transformation of the figure of the Buddha across Asia,” he said. “The Ackland’s holdings will allow me to to that because the sculptures they possess are so strong.” 

But Bailey said he is eager to work not only with the Ackland’s current holdings, but also to acquire new pieces. 

“What they want me to do is polish the collection they have and continue building it,” he said. 

“I’m very eager to put my stamp on the Ackland.”

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